Brokering a global deal on climate change

26 January 2009 13:00 - 14:15 GMT+00
Public event

Speakers:

Yvo de Boer - Executive Secretary, UNFCCC

Joan Ruddock MP - Parliamentary under-secretary of state, Department for Energy and Climate Change

Chair:

Colin Challen MP - Chair, All Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group

Description

The UNFCCC meeting at Poznan in December 2008 was an interim conference between the Bali conference (which generated the Bali Action Plan in 2007) and Copenhagen in December 2009, where an agreement on a post 2012 climate change regime will be sought.  Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC and Joan Ruddock MP, Minister for Climate Change will discuss the current status of negotiations after Poznan and look at the critical challenges to be faced over the next year, focussing on the implications for developing countries and the poor.

Committee Room 14

Colin Challen MP welcomed all present and introduced the first speaker Yvo De Boer, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC.

Yvo De Boer opened the session by saying that the UN Secretary General had described 2009 as the “year of climate change”. He highlighted that global emissions need to peak in the next 15 years and this is a particular priority for the poorest and most vulnerable people who will be worst hit by the impacts of climate change. De Boer said that there are two conditions to achieve great things: (i) a plan, and (ii) not quite enough time which he argued, bodes well for the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009.

Although there were no major political outcomes at the last climate talks in Poznan, it made progress in several areas of work, including the crucial draft negotiating text to be prepared by June 2009. De Boer highlighted the progress made on technology transfer and on the Adaptation Fund which will help the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt. However, he also stressed that more efforts for technology cooperation are needed and that the lack of agreement on the extension of the Adaptation Fund levy system has not enabled an expansion of adaptation funding.

De Boer outlinedfour “political essentials” to unleash action for a “make or break” deal:

  1. Clarity on quantified emissions objectives for industrialised countries;
  2. Clarity on targets for developing countries that enable economic growth and poverty reduction but allow for measurable, reportable, and verifiable reductions in comparison to what they are doing currently.
  3. Clarity on how to support adaptation and mitigation efforts. Carbon markets are a promising first step, but are there other structures that can be established within the Convention? Or other opportunities through the Convention?
  4. Clarity on institutional framework to deliver support for mitigation and adaptation which ensures ownership by developing countries.

De Boer said that the challenges are huge for 2009; but there are also huge opportunities. He highlighted:

  1. The divide between developing and industrialised countries. Developing countries point to the lack of leadership on part of industrialised countries. Breaking this divide will require clever financial architecture to unleash action.
  2. The positive signs from the new Obama administration will change the dynamics of the negotiations.
  3. That the economic crisis is being used by some to redirect energy policies for economic recovery. Copenhagen could help make economic packages sustainable and catalyse a “green pattern of globalisation” where economic growth and mitigation are mutually reinforcing.

He went on to address the question of how we can make sure these issues are not sidelined. He made the following points:

  1. Leadership role for developed countries who need to live up to their commitments
  2. New resources are needed for adaptation and new ways to mobilise additional finance
  3. Many Least Developed Countries need help identifying the most pressing adaptation needs
  4. The challenge cannot be met without engaging developing countries. Theprivate sector is crucial and public funding could play a role in leveraging substantial private funding.

De Boer concluded by reiterating that 2009 is the year that the real negotiations mode has begun, with four sessions planned, and perhaps a fifth before Copenhagen. The price of failure is high, particularly for the 2.6 billion poor who have the weakest political voice. But 2009 is an opportunity for a new beginning with new tools for a better, safer and inclusive sustainable future.

Joan Ruddock MP began by underlining that 2009 is a vital year for negotiations. She argued that a solution will only be met through collective and international action. At Poznan she was struck by the dedication, fortitude of the delegations, and by what can be achieved when all pull together. She underlined that the challenge can be met, and that the UK government is under no illusion of the size of the task.

She emphasised the political commitment for a deal, citing examples of the progress made on developing a shared vision of a pathway to a low carbon economy and the UK’s prominent role in helping the Adaptation Fund in becoming operational and in brokering ministerial declaration on countering deforestation.

She then addressed the question of what we need from Copenhagen, citing four main requirements:

  1. A major reduction commitment from developed countries;
  2. Substantial deviation away from “business as usual” for developing countries;
  3. Flows of finance for adaptation and mitigation for developing countries;
  4. Strong leadership from developed nations and from the EU as a whole.

Ruddock commented on specific developments that may contribute to a Copenhagen deal:

  1. The UK has the first legally binding framework to cut emissions: the Climate Change Act has pledged to cut emissions by 80 percent by 2050 against a 1990 baseline, and introduced a carbon budgeting system which represents groundbreaking legislation.
  2. European Union commitments agreed in December, to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, and by 30 per cent in the event of an international agreement.
  3. The new US administration shows encouraging signs which will hopefully translate into effective domestic action and transition towards a low carbon economy.
  4. Progress in other countries previously criticised by the US: For example, China has shown ambitious targets on deforestation, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Ruddock went on to say that there is more to climate change than mitigation: a Copenhagen deal must include fair and justprovisions for adaptation finance for developing nations. The UK has played a significant role so far by contributing £800 million to the World Bank Climate Investment Funds from the Environmental Transformation Fund; providing £2.5 million for the start up of the Adaptation Fund and providing £125 million for the Bonn Declaration to 2008 which will double to 2012. She said however, that it is more complex than developing just another fund - integrating support within development will be real challenge.

Ruddock went on to discuss the role of forestry in a climate change deal. She said that Copenhagen without deforestation is unconceivable. This will not be cheap, with estimates of between 17 and 33 billion pounds every year. The two main questions are where will the finance come from and how will it be distributed? The UK is supportive of market mechanisms and recognises that need to engage with many communities affected, and with NGOs and private companies.

Ruddock concluded by saying that the UK’s commitment to tackling climate change is embodied in formation of the new Department for Energy and Climate Change. Moving away from fossil fuel economy can provide more secure and sustainable economies and reduce threats to security, peace and development. She argued and that governments alone cannot solve the problem – individuals must also engage. The eyes of the world will be on us in Copenhagen and this is our chance to make our contribution.

A discussion followed, covering the following points:       

  1. The role of the IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency): Ruddock said that the government has a huge commitment to renewable energy and supports its aims but is still assessing how it overlaps with existing initiatives. She also commented that we need to increase our support for renewables tenfold in next ten years in order to meet targets.
  2. Governments’ responsibility to make the change versus individual behaviour change: Ruddock argued that telling people how bad they are is not the best way to get them to change. Ruddock underlined that as an elected government, the UK government can only engage to build the public support. This worked with development assistance (Make Poverty History movement). She said that the UK government has an “Act on Co2” campaign and calculator, and values the importance of public engagement for people to understand what they need to change. In time they will move towards more difficult things.
  3. Growth and climate change: De Boer said that he believes that growth and climate change mitigation can be achieved together and that he is not out to prevent anyone from doing anything, provided the cost of pollution is reflected in the price of the product. We are insufficiently supporting the development of renewable energy for the price to go down, and overly supporting the price of oil. This is not about “environmental Calvinism”, as there are perfectly good ways of giving people good standards of living but at a pollution cost.
  4. The politics of the UNFCCC negotiations: De Boer said that it is very important not to break the consensus. This makes it slow and bureaucratic, but at the end of the day this gives the feeling that there concerns will be addressed.
  5. The challenges of the credit crunch in relation to climate change: De Boer said that the economic crisis will make it more difficult to mobilise financial resources, and expressed the hope to find for new creative financing ways in Copenhagen that involve revenues from the climate regime itself (e.g. auctioning emissions rights), as opposed to financial assistance from Ministers. Ruddock echoed the call for climate financing and highlighted that if investments are more limited and selective, this will mean investments in new technologies and low carbon economy, and as a government we will encourage this. Do Boer mentioned some interesting initiatives in the private sector, including UNFCCC negotiations with the eight biggest pension funds under the P8.
  6. Engagement with civil society.Ruddock said that NGOs have spent so much time campaigning against the government. Virtually everything is in the Climate change Act that NGOs asked for. Government needs them to help make it work. For example, when we come to June deadline for producing the first ever carbon budgets these will need to be communicated.
  7. Low level of government ambition:Ruddock said that she disagrees, pointing to the government’s response to advice from the Independent Climate Change Committee, and to the EU package. If these move towards 30% reductions by 2020, then this is a very high level of ambition.
  8. Role of North-South bilateral partnerships in relation to the UNFCCC negotiations? Ruddock said she didn’t see any contradictions between bilateral and multilateral initiatives, as long as they are not a way of stepping aside from a global agreement, and that these are additional. De Boer underlined that leadership is essential to unlock other groups.
  9. Pitfalls in the international process and learning from Kyoto: De Boer said that the problem with the Kyoto negotiations was that they were not sufficiently comprehensive Political and economic reasons dominated, with much attention focussed on US participation and neglect of other key actors such as Russia. This time we need to involve everyone. But we cannot rely on climate change negotiations alone: the G2 (US and China), G8, G13 and G20 are all important in bringing different interests together.

Colin Challen MP closed the session by asking a final question: what does a sufficient Copenhagen deal look like? De Boer responded that Copenhagen cannot be an answer to every single detail but it can deliver clarity on developed country targets; clarity on developing country participation; clarity on financing; clarity on reformed governance structure that ensures that money goes to where developing countries want it to go.

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